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SCUFI: Dog portrait sessions go back to basics

    SCUFI and KISS.

    Those are two of the first acronyms I learned in my pursuit of photography, a journey that started about 35 years ago. Now I’m applying them to my dog portrait sessions.

    My high school photography teacher sent me to a summer camp sponsored by Jostens, the yearbook company.

    I learned all the things – the exposure triangle, portraits, panning and street photography. I was able to put all that learning into action throughout my newspaper career and sports-action photography.

    Of course it has all come in handy now that I’m a dog photographer.

    But SCUFI and KISS? They make a huge difference in dog portrait sessions.

    KISS stands for Keep It Simple, Silly, and we’ll dig more into that one next month.

    SCUFI, though … that’s the jam.

    wide angle for senior dog photo shoots

    Shoot close up for impact

    When it comes to dog photography, shooting close up lets the camera see the details and characteristics of the dog’s face and expression more clearly. 

    We get to see the unique features of your dog’s face, the special sparkle in his eyes, the unique speckle of her nose, and the underbite that made you fall in love. 

    We get to see the personality in his smile, the fire in her eyes. 

    And don’t forget the toes. If you’re one of those weirdos like me that love to kiss and sniff her toes (Fritos!), you’re going to want a detail shot of her paws. 

    Those detail shots really come in handy when we’re highlighting your dog’s breed characteristics, like a pug’s snout or a pit bull’s ears or the tip of a border collie’s tail.

    When we get in tight with our cameras, we create a sense of intimacy and connection with your dog. You might even see a different look than what you’re used to, especially when we’re out on adventure and your dog is enjoying that time in the great outdoors. 

    How it’s done in dog portrait sessions

    There are two different ways I can get a cool close-up shot of your dog. 

    1. The long lens

    The 70-200mm lens is the dog photographer’s workhorse. Many in my industry default to this lens and some never take it off their cameras. 

    I usually start my sessions with this lens because the distance it allows me to keep between me and your dog gives your pupper the chance to get used to my existence. Reactive or “stranger danger” dogs can be especially nervous around new people or the whirr of my camera.

    It also helps to keep dogs with medial issues more comfortable.

    Boxer with degenerative myelopathy

    The higher-end 70-200 lenses also allow for a shallow depth of field, blurring out the background which eliminates distractions and background clutter.

    2. The wide-angle lens

    Once your dog is more comfortable with me being in their space, I’m switching lenses. I’m pulling my 14-30 out of my back and we’re going to get those goofy, wide-angle shots that I just love.

    You want to see personality in your dog’s face? Fall in love with her crooked nose over and over again? This is how it’s done.

    Stella gets the wide-angle treatment during one of last summer's dog portrait sessions

    I do have to be careful about the location, though, because with a wide-angle lens, you get a lot more background, which in turn can mean a lot more clutter and a lot more – ugh – time spent in Photoshop.

    All around the circle

    Jack and Porter

    Shooting close up in dog photography is a fun way to highlight your dog’s quirks and my friends in the dog photography industry are showing off their SCUFI work this week.

    Start with Syracuse photographer Nancy of Nancy Kieffer Photography, sharing reasons to get close up and personal with pet photography.

    Click the link at the bottom of Nancy’s post to continue through the circle. When you get back here to my close-up shots of dogs around the Inland Northwest, that’s when you know you’re home.

    Right where you belong.

    And if you’re ready to start planning your adventure with Big White Dog Photography, book your get-to-know-each-other chat now.


    Dogs. Adventure. Outdoors. These words set Angela's heart afire. Angela Schneider, an award-winning writer and dog photographer, documents the story of you and your dog and the adventures you take together. Your portraits will be a statement piece in your home, art that will make your friends and family beg to hear its story.

    2 thoughts on “SCUFI: Dog portrait sessions go back to basics”

    1. Funny, this topic brought me back to my high school photography class too. But, for slightly different reasons. I had never heard of SCUFI before and I ended up scrapping my high school intro because my brain was just not working last night and I couldn’t get it to flow.
      Thanks for the scoop on SCUFI!

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